Colt hero (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday March 6, 2007 4:18PM; Updated: Tuesday March 6, 2007 5:11PM
McCoy proved that on Oct. 7, when he led a second-half surge to put away arch-rival Oklahoma. Two weeks later, in the snow at Nebraska, he led a last-minute, game-winning drive. The next week at Texas Tech, he accounted for 324 yards and four touchdowns as the 'Horns rallied back from a 24-7 deficit to win 35-31. In the blink of an eye, McCoy had morphed from being Texas' biggest question mark to its most valuable weapon.
Unfortunately, The 'Horns found out the hard way just how valuable he was. On Nov. 11 at Kansas State, with Texas one win away from clinching the Big 12 South, McCoy was knocked out in the first quarter with a pinched nerve in his neck. Backup Jevan Snead (who has since transferred to Ole Miss) performed admirably, but McCoy's absence seemed to haunt the whole team, which inexplicably allowed 45 points -- a season-high by two touchdowns -- in defeat.
McCoy returned the next week but was noticeably skittish in a crushing 12-7 loss to Texas A&M that ruined the 'Horns' BCS hopes. "In hindsight, he shouldn't have played," said Davis. "He was cleared to play, he wanted to play, we wanted him to play, but in hindsight, he wasn't himself."
The sting of that injury for both himself and the team was the motivating factor behind McCoy's winter weight-room romp. "I probably wasn't in as good a shape as I could have been," said the small-town Tuscola, Texas, native. "[My first two years] I spent a lot of time in the film room, and in terms of doing my job on the field, I kind of have that part down. But in terms of spending time in the weight room vs. the film room, I needed to start balancing that out better."
Any lingering effects from the injury were certainly gone by the time of the Dec. 30 Alamo Bowl. After falling behind Iowa 14-0 early, McCoy once again rallied his team to victory with a dazzling 26-of-40, 308-yard performance in which the 'Horns essentially scrapped their running game after the first quarter and allowed McCoy to continually attack the Hawkeyes' secondary.
While San Antonio wasn't exactly their desired postseason destination, Texas fans are hoping that game -- in which McCoy connected with eight different receivers -- was a preview of things to come. Because in addition to their quarterback, the 'Horns return nearly all their key skill players: Sweed, Charles, receivers Quan Cosby, Billy Pittman, Jordan Shipley and Nate Jones and tight end JerMichael Finley. These were the guys who voluntarily joined McCoy on the practice field just weeks after the Alamo Bowl.
"I told them there's no reason why we shouldn't be great, so why not start working on it right now?" said McCoy.
Texas will not be without its share of question marks, starting first and foremost with its offensive line. After years of being able to rely on veterans like Justin Blalock, Kasey Studdard and Lyle Sendlein, Texas will be breaking in a host of new blockers. And the speedy Charles, who passed on track this spring to concentrate on football, is looking to regain a step after seeing his yards-per-carry average slip from 7.4 as a freshman to 5.3 last year.
"We'll be inexperienced in the offensive line, so Jamaal Charles needs to come back and have a great year, and we need to rely heavily on our receivers," said Brown. "Limas, Quan, Billy Pittman, Jordan Shipley, Nate Jones -- that's a group of five guys as good as we've ever had."
Meanwhile, on defense, Texas is attempting to replace not only a host of future pros (Thorpe winner Aaron Ross, defensive ends Tim Crowder and Brian Robison, DBs Michael Griffin and Tarell Brown) but also their mentor of the past two years, Gene Chizik, now the head coach at Iowa State. Defensive backs coach Duane Akina, who served as co-coordinator to Chizik, is now sharing those duties with former Arizona colleague and "Desert Swarm" architect Larry Mac Duff, whom Brown hired from the San Francisco 49ers.
Brown and Davis are also spending the spring trying to identify a reliable backup for McCoy between freshmen Sherrod Harris and John Chiles. The plan is to get the No. 2 QB more playing time in the fall in hopes of avoiding another collapse should McCoy go down again.
Not that McCoy's anticipating that happening.
"The injury was tough," he said. "Now, I feel a lot stronger, and as I've gained some weight, I even feel like I've gotten a bit faster. I'm just excited to get back out there."